Nehemiah did not try to blame others for Israel’s captivity in Babylon. Shifting from the third person to the first person, Nehemiah identifies the cause of the fall of Israel with the sins of the nation. He recognizes that Israel is in the situation it is in because of its own failures. He is part of the sinful nation and does not shy away from his identity with them and his accountability to God. Yet, he knows that the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt generations earlier was the same God he addressed today. He looked to God to “redeem” the nation again as He had done in Egypt. At that time, God heard the groaning of his people in slavery and acted out of his undying love for them. They were his own chosen people. Nehemiah rehearsed God’s previous redemption and asked God to hear their cry for help now. He acknowledges God’s compassion and mercy on His children and asks Him to intervene with the King of Babylon just as He did with Pharoah in Egypt. He does not ask for plagues, however, but for God to move the heart of the king to release His people and send them back to their own land. We see this in Nehemiah 1:10-11, “They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

 Nehemiah asked that God show his children favor once again through his omnipotent ability to work in the heart and mind of the king. If God can send hail, locusts, frogs, and other plagues to Egypt, He could surely move this one king. If God could speak to the Red Sea and make it part to allow the Israelites to escape their slave masters in Egypt, he could surely affect the thinking of this one king.  Smith says, “We do not know how many days Nehemiah made this specific request before the opportunity actually presented itself. One would assume that he focused on confessing sins for some days and that at some later date, he began to pray for God to use his own contact with the king to bring about a solution to the disgraceful situation in Jerusalem. Thus, Nehemiah believed God could influence the mind of a pagan king.”[1]

When we look at the world with all of its trials, troubles, tribulations, its heartaches, its problems, its calamities, and distresses, we sometimes ask this question: “Where is God? Why doesn’t He step in? Why doesn’t He do something?” And we look at our own lives, and we have problems on top of problems. And it seems that our problems have problems. And we wonder, “Why doesn’t God move? Is it that God is not able? Is the situation too big, too large, too strong, too difficult for God?” As Israel was facing the destruction of their city and temple, Jeremiah asked God similar questions with much weeping. Jeremiah, as you know, is the weeping prophet. But he tells us how God answered him in Jeremiah 32:26. It reads, “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?’” Jesus demonstrated his own power to work miracles on behalf of his chosen people as well. We see five thousand fed with a few loaves and fish. We see storms calmed on the seas. We see lepers healed, blind people receiving their sight, women with incurable diseases healed, and ultimately, we see Lazarus raised from the dead. Do you really think there is anything too hard for God?

[1] Smith, Gary V. 2010. Ezra-Nehemiah & Esther. Vol. 5b. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.